In spite of comments made by Mayor Ken Miyagishima, the Las Cruces City Council is formally considering only two candidates for its open city manager job at this time.
Quoting Miyagishima, the Las Cruces Sun-News reported on Friday that the city had “decided on four finalists for the city manager’s position.”
The candidates, the newspaper quoted Miyagishima as saying, were Dan Biles, deputy county manager of infrastructure for Jefferson County, Ala.; Stuart Ed, president and chief executive officer of Goodwill Industries of El Paso; and both of Las Cruces’ assistant city managers — Daniel Avila and David Dollahon, who is currently serving as interim city manager.
But on Saturday, Avila told the Sun-News he was not interested in applying to be city manager — and he didn’t know he was being considered until he read it in the newspaper.
The truth is that the Council has made no plans to interview Avila or Dollahon for the job. Though Dollahon has applied, Biles and Ed are the only candidates formally under consideration at this time.
The mayor can state publicly who he wants to be considered for the job, but it’s up to the Council to decide whether to consider applicants.
The Council interviewed Biles and Ed last week and held a public meet-and-greet for the candidates. It scheduled additional interviews with both via Skype for Sept. 19.
Councilors Olga Pedroza and Gregory Z. Smith said in interviews that they were as surprised as Avila to read the mayor’s assertion in the newspaper that there were four finalists.
“I said, I don’t know where this is coming from,” Pedroza said. “I had heard that Mr. Avila wasn’t interested.”
Smith said Monday that last week’s interviews of Biles and Ed took place “in accordance with our understanding of how we’re supposed to operate.”
“If anyone else is to be considered in the future, their names are not in the hopper at the moment,” Smith said.
Over the weekend, Smith acknowledged the confusion in a comment he posted on Facebook.
“…we have four candidates if you take what the mayor said in Friday’s interview at face value, or three candidates if you subtract Daniel Avila, or two if you only include the ones we publicized that we interviewed on Wednesday,” he wrote.
Councilor Ceil Levatino said it is “unfortunate that the mayor has made the process confusing.”
“I wish the mayor had consulted with me before speaking for me,” Levatino said.
Miyagishima confirmed in an interview Monday that there are only two candidates under consideration by the Council at this time. But he said he had planned to propose that the Council also consider Avila and Dollahon. Miyagishima said he will still ask the Council to consider Dollahon’s application.
“As mayor I propose various items and control the meetings. Council can override my proposals or support them,” Miyagishima said. “Other than the decision to bring the two candidates back on September 19, the other comments/proposed actions are mine.”
The mayor said councilors were “impressed” by Biles and Ed during last week’s interviews. He said Dollahon was also mentioned in last week’s closed meeting as a possible candidate.
Pedroza said she recalls councilors discussing Dollahon at some point and deciding to not interview him for the job.
The city considered 11 applications, including Dollahon’s, in May. Councilors opted at the time to interview three — Mike Gallagher, the manager for Lea County, N.M.; Ruth Osuna, assistant city manager for Brownsville, Texas; and Dave Strahl, former assistant village manager for Mount Prospect, Illinois — but not Dollahon. The city made no hire following those interviews.
Biles and Ed applied more recently.
Dollahon said Monday that he’s still interested in the city manager position and, in the meantime, “I look forward to continuing my work with the Council and my fellow city staff.”
As for the incorrect information the mayor gave the Sun-News, Pedroza said she is certain Miyagishima didn’t do it “for any bad reason.”
“He probably just wasn’t thinking,” Pedroza said. “I don’t question his intentions, but I do question what he said.”
This isn’t the first controversy surrounding Las Cruces’ city manager search. Though the city has released 13 applications for the job, it has withheld dozens of others from the public.
State law makes applications for high-profile government jobs like city manager public. But the city contends that applications its contract search firm hasn’t turned over to the city aren’t public records. NMPolitics.net has sued, seeking release of all applications. The case is pending.